Categories
Vietnamese

Nem Kitchen – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

Nem Kitchen, Vietnamese restaurant in Waterloo, wasn’t where I was initially planning to have lunch on Boxing Day 2020 but I’m glad it’s where I went.

Bún Bò Huế

I tried to order a Phở Đặc Biệt but didn’t realise until right now, whilst writing this review, that I was given Bún Bò Huế (Hot and Spicy Beef Noodle Soup – $17.80) instead. I had just thought, at the time, that I was given a really special and delicious bowl of pho. The broth had a really deep herbal flavour with lots of chilli flavour inside. I was going to remark that it was strange that chilli was mixed into the soup prior to it being served but I now know that that’s really kind of a stupid thought given that it wasn’t actually a bowl of pho that I ate. I’m not Vietnamese, so I don’t know these things. The Bún Bò Huế had a combination of rare sliced beef, beef brisket, beef balls, and pork loaf. The rare sliced beef was rolled up into balls and submerged into the soup, ensuring that at the very least the insides of the balls did not become overcooked throughout the meal. I found the beef brisket quite unpleasant – very fatty and chewy with a strong beef fat taste, and I would definitely recommend asking to not have this. The beef balls were quite standard, and the pork loaf the same kind of stuff you get in banh mi. The noodles of the Bún Bò Huế were a thick round vermicelli, which also surprised me at the time but obviously makes sense now knowing that it wasn’t actually pho that I was eating.

An middle-aged white man walked past me whilst I was eating and asked what I was having. He ordered one of the same, even though I told him to avoid the brisket. His loss.

Hanoi Crab and Pork Spring Roll

The crab and pork spring rolls (Nem Cua Bể – $12.80) were very good. The pastry was multilayered and crispy, and the filling of crab meat, pork mince, mushroom and wood ear fungus was very tasty. The dipping sauce was a good addition, although I must admit I did not finish (or expect) the side salad. I can recommend this one too.

I took a serving of  Crispy Chicken & Salad with Tomato Rice (Cơm Đỏ Gà Giòn – $17.80) home. I was more keen to just get crispy chicken, but could not see it on the menu. Little did I know that they do probably offer the chicken by itself, as it’s on their online delivery menus. By the time I arrived home (a 15 minute drive) the chicken was already non-crispy. A bit disappointing.

The Pork Chops & Fried Egg with Tomato Rice ($16.80) was mildly better than the crispy chicken and rice but not by much. My partner said it was only OK.

VERDICT
I’d really recommend the Hot and Spicy Beef Noodle Soup and the crab and pork spring rolls. I think some of the other sides sound potentially delicious too. Worth a visit, but think twice about take-away.

4.

Nem Kitchen
20A Danks St, Waterloo NSW 2017
(02) 9698 6392

Categories
Bakery Vietnamese

PiPi’s Pork Rolls – Unanderra NSW Restaurant Review

I walked nine kilometers today on a quest for what’s been lauded by some as Wollongong’s best banh mi, at QP Bakery in Berkeley. It was only when I arrived at QP that I found that they, like any other self-respecting eighteenth century bakery, are a cash only establishment. Much to my dismay with only six dollars in coins in my pockets, their most basic pork roll started at $7. I re-embarked on my sad journey to my partner’s apartment to the dulcet tones of Josh Farkas and Adam Thomas and instead ate at one of the many hot bread shops I had passed along the way.

This crispy crackling component of this Crispy Pork Belly Roll ($9.50) wasn’t quite what I expected. While the majority of crackling pork belly rolls that I’ve experienced have had a semi-dry, semi-oily-wet crackling that is both crispy and chewy – similar to what you would get from a Hong Kong BBQ restaurant, the crackling at PiPi’s was more reminiscent of what you would get from a snack food packet. Though I have seen actual evidence on their Facebook page of them cooking their crackling themselves, the crunchy crispiness but also the dryness of their pork crackling actually led me to initially believe that it was store bought rather than made in-house. While I don’t profess to be expert enough to truly judge banh mi by their traditional standards, I suppose that it’s probably acceptable to have either kind of crackling in your pork roll.

Crackling aside, I think PiPi’s crispy pork belly roll is actually quite good. The pork belly itself was nice, soft, and moist. The salads provided were balanced, and sauce was applied in an appropriate and conservative manner. I’d probably have this roll again.

I have no serious hitting commentary about PiPi’s classic Vietnamese Pork Roll ($7.50), though I will note that their pate is a bit different to the usual pate that I seem to get at Sydney banh mi-eries. It had a stronger flavour than I’m used to, more akin to the pates you would get at your local supermarket than the lighter flavoured pates normally used. Aside from this, this banh mi was slightly over-soyed (or Maggied, as it were), though still perfectly edible and ultimately not too salty.

CONCLUSION
I just don’t know why there are places in the 21st century not offering card payments, but I’m glad that PiPi’s Pork Rolls isn’t one of them. Not a bad lunchtime option if you’re a local, but I wouldn’t drive to the Illawara for a banh mi.

A friendly driveway dog I met on my walk.

PiPi’s Pork Rolls
135 Princes Hwy, Unanderra NSW 2526
0450 909 109

Categories
Vietnamese

Saigon Senses – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

Following the advice of a somewhat fanatical online poster, and in the unfortunate situation of Viet’z Eatery not being open during the crucial Wednesday-Thursday period where I usually find myself in Wollongong I decided to try Saigon Senses’ alternative offering of Vietnamese food. While I visited in person, the current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in NSW meant that I had to take my food home to eat.

First up was this rather disappointing Cracking Pork Roll ($10.50). Whilst at first it appears unassuming and normal, this banh mi was way too salty for my liking. Your classic pork roll is a mix of umami proteins and a balance of fresh salads, however I felt that in this case even the salad components were too sauced. While I did enjoy the large quantity of pork as well as the addition of crunchy pork crackling, the fact that each and every bite had a strong and inescapable soy sauce flavour ruined the experience for me. That, and paying $10.50 for something you’d pay $8 for in Sydney, puts this particular roll into no re-match territory for me.

The spicy beef noodles ($11.50), unlike the crackling pork roll, was actually both cheap and good. This bowl featured thin round vermicelli, rare sliced beef, and spicy sour broth served separately. Saigon Senses is well set up for take-away, clear from the fact that the separately packaged soup and noodles fit perfectly into the disposable plastic bowl when recombined – thoughtfulness that not many restaurants exhibit. The rare beef was tender, cooked just a little by the hot soup. While I’m used to bun bo hue containing multiple types of meat, including beef brisket, rare beef, and cha lua (pork sausage), I’m reliably informed that it is also acceptable to just have rare beef slices by themselves. Regardless, this was a nice, tasty, and warming bowl that I can recommend to anyone.

Saigon Senses
Wollongong Central (opposite Coles) 200 Crown St, Wollongong NSW 2500
0481 368 009

Categories
Asian Fusion Café Vietnamese

KINX Cafe – Bankstown NSW Restaurant Review

Kinx is an absolute gem of a cafe tucked away in the culinary wasteland of South West Sydney. Kinx’s creative Asian-fusion brunch menu exceeded all geographic expectations, and our visit instantly propelled Kinx to the top of our list of cafes we enjoy in Sydney.

The Pho Beef Ribs were the reason we drove half an hour to go to Kinx in the first place, and boy did they not disappoint. Our waiter suggested a half serve ($20) rather than a full serve, as the kitchen was running low on ribs and we hadn’t had the foresight of booking ahead for this magnetic weekend special. The beef ribs were extremely tender and were in the perfect sweet spot where they fell right off the bone but retained enough internal structure for a good mouthfeel. The pho marinade was true to specification, with a delicious herbal umami taste. The rice noodle cakes, lightly deep fried were absolutely delicious, crisp, and soaked up the saucy marinade well. My partner thought that they had a much more delicate flavour and mouthfeel than just plain old rice cakes, and thought that they emulated thin noodles very well. The small amount of salad with bean sprouts, pickles, chilli, coriander, and Thai Basil was fresh and delicious, cutting through the strong umami flavours of the meat. Overall an excellent dish that I hope all beef-eating readers of this blog can have the opportunity to try.

The All You Can Beef Rice Bowl ($16), was nice but very much overshadowed by the pho beef ribs. The rice bowl features a smoky soy rice, 63 degree egg, and a wagyu beef hamburg katsu patty in bulgogi sauce. Whilst I enjoyed the menchi katsu (the first I’ve found outside of Japan), I thought that the smoked flavour of the rice was a bit too strong, and not to my taste. The 63 degree egg was excellent as always, and the bulgogi sauce was a good pairing for the patty, but neither of us ended up keen enough to finish the rice on account of its smokiness.

The Mama’s Siu Mai was essentially vietnamese pork meatballs in a tomato based sauce, served with bread – a Vietnamese spin on what you would often find on the menu of an Italian restaurant. The meatballs were yummy, as was the sauce and bread, though I think if I’m being honest we could’ve done with only one of this dish or the smoked beef bowl. My partner also wanted to get chips, and I’m glad I said no.

We also rolled for a wild card on the expensive but delicious Taro Coffee ($8). It is a very thick iced drink, of mostly taro with a hint of coffee mixed in, topped with some mixed cereals. It is a special and different experience, and quite good to boot. Sweet but not too sweet, kind of like the taro milk tea of your childhood but all grown up.

The regular coffee is regular.

VERDICT
Wow. What a wonderful place. You owe it to yourself to pay them a visit once the southwest is liberated.

Kinx Cafe
3/432 Chapel Rd, Bankstown NSW 2200
(02) 8772 5117

Categories
Asian Fusion Vietnamese

Hello Auntie – Darling Square Haymarket NSW Restaurant Review

We’ve passed Hello Auntie multiple times on our numerous trips to Darling Square, and felt it was time to pay them a visit. Given the limited COVID-19 seating situation, we booked ahead for the same night, which was not a problem at all on a Wednesday.

Hello Auntie has mixed indoor and outdoor seating, and provides blankets to snuggle up under for both indoor outdoor patrons. I can’t imagine that these are washed very often, and thus with the COVID-19 context in mind draws allusions to Christopher Columbus.

As lovers of fried chicken, we were unable to see past the Ga Chien Vi Pho ($32). 500 grams of fried chicken in a pho-flavoured batter could not simply be ignored. We were surprised with three large pieces of juicy, tender chicken in a fluffy golden batter – I had imagined more numerous, smaller pieces. The chicken was tasty and not faultable – a definite recommendation. Despite being listed in the menu I didn’t realise the dish came with a large amount of salad – lettuce heart in plenty of ceasar-like dressing. A relatively heavy and oily salad but a nice and surprising addition.

The other dish we had was the Mi xao bo birria ($21). Supposedly angus blade ragu in biang biang noodles, this dish was very similar to the pappardelle with lamb shank ragu at Flour Drum, but nowhere near as good. The angus blade ragu amounted to little more than connective tissue with only a vague hint of actual meat. It was a very chewy affair. We also found that the biang biang noodles had an odd stale-like taste, which just piled onto the dish’s inadequacies. It was ultimately a poorly executed noodle dish that I wish we had avoided.

While I enjoyed Hello Auntie’s chicken, the ragu was a big letdown. I would return to Hello Auntie to try some other dishes, but probably not in the near future. Hello Auntie earns a rare 3.5/5 chickens. Bok bok.

Hello Auntie Darling Square
Darling Square, Shop 2/16 Nicolle Walk, Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 8072 8838